As more and more companies and governments are shifting from non-renewable energy and are interested in harnessing renewable energy sources like wind and solar, Puget Sound Energy is committed to embracing similar environmental responsibilities.
The pioneering Green Direct Program and subsequent Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project were created to offer PSE’s corporate and governmental customers the capability of purchasing all their power from a stable, cost-effective, and renewable energy resource.
Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project
Construction for the Skookumchuck Wind Facility began in 2019 and the project went into operation in November of 2020. Producing up to 137-megawatts of wind energy, the facility is the first of its kind in the area.
Located on Weyerhaeuser timberland in Lewis and Thurston counties, the project is owned by Southern Power. “The fact that it is the largest wind project in Western Washington makes it very unique,” says Manager for PSE’s Customer Renewable Energy Program Heather Mulligan. “It is one of the few utility-scale wind projects in the area.”
Green Direct Program
So now that the Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project is complete what happens to all the power it is producing? What really spurred the project was the demand for clean energy from area businesses and municipalities.
“It is a unique product in that it allows some of our largest customers to address their sustainability objectives by purchasing renewable energy from a specified project through a long-term commitment,” says Mulligan. “It really is different in that we went out and were able to procure this resource because of the long term commitment from this set of customers.”
PSE aggregated customer interest in a renewable resource to the point where the utility provider could engage in a larger cost-effective project like Skookumchuck Wind, instead of building individual turbines.
The list of organizations with a commitment to renewable energy and reducing their carbon footprint include Sound Transit, Western Washington University, Port of Seattle, Costco, REI, and the Capitol Campus.
“Access to clean energy is critical as we work to reduce our impact on the planet,” said Andrew Dempsey, REI senior manager of sustainability, in the press statement. “We hope this project can serve as an example that others might follow to add local, green energy to the grid.”
It’s not just businesses interested in renewable energy. The list of municipalities in the Green Direct Program includes the cities of Bellevue, Olympia, Kirkland, Tumwater, Anacortes, Mercer Island, Snoqualmie, Lacey, Issaquah, and Bellingham.
“With this new wind facility built right in our backyard, our City operations are now running on 100% renewable energy,” said Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby in the recent announcement. “That’s significant progress – for our climate, for our economy, and for our future.”
“The number of local governments participating in the program is really remarkable,” says Mulligan. “We have cities as small as Langley on Whidbey Island and all the way up to King and Whatcom Counties, and including cities up and down the I-5 corridor. It’s been great to work with those municipalities to help them meet their climate goals through this program. Without this program, it would have been difficult for them to access this renewable energy in the same way.”
While some of their largest customers were asking for clean energy, PSE listened and created programs like Green Direct. “A lot of them were looking for a product that would contribute to additionality with the concept that project was happening because of actions they took and not just them grasping onto a project that already existed and then claiming benefit,” says Mulligan. “Their commitment did really add to new renewable energy in the state and that was a really big plus for them. They can point to it and say, ‘we had a role in making that happen.’”
By making that long-term commitment, the customers lock into a price for the 10, 15 or 20 years in the term of their participation. “That provides them certainty over time of what their rates related to energy will do,” says Mulligan. “They are still a fully bundled customer with PSE so they are still paying for all of the costs of operating and maintaining our system. Those pieces don’t go away but what it does do, is address those parts related to the energy they are purchasing — they are hedging against future energy cost increases.”
The Future of Renewable Energy
Green Direct is fully subscribed but it’s just the beginning. Phase 2 will come online in 2021 with 20 additional customers who will begin receiving power when the Lund Hill Solar Project is completed. The 150-megawatt solar project located in Klickitat County will be the largest solar project in the state.
PSE is committed to deep decarbonization and creating a better energy future while helping its customers to achieve their own decarbonization goals as well.
The Green Direct Program and Skookumchuck Wind Energy Project furthers Puget Sound Energy’s deep decarbonization goals and accelerates the move towards clean electricity by 2045, as called for in Washington’s Clean Energy Transformation Act.
“We are very excited for this new project to come online, especially because it really is the first of its kind and the largest in Western Washington,” says Mulligan. “It represents the commitment of these 21 customers. It is not the end; we are excited to bring online the new 150-megawatt solar project in 2021 for additional customers. We really do want to keep working with our customers who are interested in going further and faster for a clean energy future.”